Friday Favourites: Summer Holiday Style

I don’t know about you, but when I go on holiday I think the outfits I choose to pack have to earn their place in my suitcase.

My clothes have to be easy to pack (I really can’t be doing with ironing at the best of times, least of all on holiday); be suitable for day and night (with accessories to make an item appropriate for an occasion); comfortable and easy-to-wear.

Oh, and look good, of course. I don’t want much, do I?

So for today’s Friday Favourites post, I thought I’d share with you my style choices from my recent holiday to Bordeaux and the surrounding countryside.

Butterfly Print Skirt

I love this White Stuff skirt – it’s fun and flirty. The multi-coloured butterfly print means it’s easy to wear with pretty much any colour of top. I teamed it with my Joules statement necklace – and felt fab wandering around Bordeaux.

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Excuse the detritus in the background!

Geometric print dress

I found this dress, by Lily and Me in an independent shop in my home town. I was pleased to discover them – I love their prints, and the cut of their dresses and tunics complements my shape.

Day 2 in Bordeaux was really hot: the dress was perfect for wandering around in….

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…or for enjoying a glass of wine during an al fresco lunch.

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Navy Kookai Dress

Ok, this (and the next dress, by Naf Naf) didn’t travel to my holiday in my case. In a wonderful coincidence of timing, our holiday in Bordeaux coincided with huge sales. I spent a happy hour in the department store Galeries Lafayette (while Martin spent a happy hour waiting for me outside), where I bought this and the Naf Naf dress).

I was delighted to find this dress, which was a complete bargain. It reflects  quintessential classic French style: so effortless and elegant with simple details such as little frills on the sleeves, and there’s a little fabric tie at the bottom of the V on the back of the dress.

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The shape of the dress made me step out of my comfort zone – I wasn’t sure about it at first, but glad I took the plunge.

I couldn’t wait to wear the dress, and wore it out to dinner that night. I felt very chic!

Coral Naf Naf dress

Another Galeries Lafayette bargain. Dresses in this shape are perfect for hot summer days – the way they drape helps keep me cool, while also accentuating the bits of my body I like and skimming over the bits I’m not too confident about.

The vibrant colour is beautiful.

Wearing my Naf Naf dress while holding baguettes, just to prove I really was in France...

Wearing my Naf Naf dress while holding baguettes, just to prove I really was in France…

...and with a field of sunflowers.

…and with a field of sunflowers.

White Stuff dress

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This gorgeous dress, kindly gifted to me by White Stuff was a perfect frock for the evenings, too. Worn with a statement necklace, it’s a great compromise between looking like I’ve made an effort and not being over-dressed. It’s so easy to pop on and head out for dinner and drinks.

On my feet

My trusty purple Teva sandals are fab for wandering around a city or in the woods once we got to the countryside of our holiday. Practical and comfy while being pretty, they are a holiday footwear staple.

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My pretty Clarks metallic sandals are brilliant for the evening, and were comfy in the daytime too.

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Last but not least, while I can’t walk far in flip-flops they’re invaluable for walking around the hotel, swimming pool or gardens.

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On my head

Hats are a stylish way of protecting your head from strong sunshine (not to mention avoiding a sunburnt scalp – ouch!).

I picked up this gorgeous floppy pink hat from Go Outdoors for about a fiver. It’s brilliant – it’s a lovely shade of pink and it’s made out of some kind of clever fabric that means it easily folded down small to be easily slipped in to my handbag without losing its shape. Genius!

Also vital in the sunshine are sunglasses. Being a glasses wearer, I love my Orla Kiely prescription shades (they feature the classic print on the arms), which feel very glamorous.

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What are your holiday style favourites?

 

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Clothes As Armour: My Return-to-Work Outfit

With my anxiety about a return to work after a 15 month absence I was delighted when my favourite shop, White Stuff, offered to send me an outfit to help manage the nerves.

This was important to me because many years of low body confidence means I treat outfits as a form of armour. Feeling I look good helps me feel good. It buoys my confidence.

My wardrobe is full of White Stuff items – the cut of the dresses in particular suits my figure, and the bright colours and fun prints suit my personality.

I was delighted with the outfit I selected: the Beautiful Island Jersey Dress in Paradise Coral made me feel good the moment I put it on. The shape is very flattering; accentuating the right parts, and skimming over the bits I don’t feel so confident about.

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With its high neckline and a hem that reaches the knee, it is a perfect work wear dress because I don’t have to worry about indecency!

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The colour: a deep indigo background with blue and coral spirals is so pretty, and goes with so much.

I paired it with the Waterfall Cardi in Deep Sky Blue – the shape of the cardigan is again very flattering. The way it is cut makes the cardigan look smart, almost like a jacket – perfect for looking the part at work. That said, I can see myself wearing the dress socially, too – it’s such a versatile frock – with a purple or coral cardigan perhaps to bring out those colours.

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I was so pleased the dress has pockets – more dresses should feature pockets because they are so useful!

All dresses should have pockets.

All dresses should have pockets.

Being a fan of a statement necklace, I was very pleased with the Short Flowery Necklace in teal. It sets off the dress beautifully, and has lovely detailing without being too ‘showy’, making it the perfect addition to this work outfit.

As you can also see in this picture, the dress has tabbed sleeves – it seemed to me to be a good compromise between sleeves and sleeveless – and therefore suitable for work in warm weather.

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On my feet I have the Melrose Mid Wedge Demi Sandals. Not being a fan of heels I find platforms like these to be a perfect compromise for when I want to add a bit of height to an outfit. These sandals are the perfect complement to an outfit and, crucially, comfy on my feet. Admittedly I didn’t wear them on my first day, preferring instead the familiarity of my sensible brogues (first days and new shoes are not a happy combination!).

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The finishing flourish is this stunning Cockatiel Scarf. Not only is it double sided: a multi-coloured graphic print on one side and plain green on the other mean it can be worn with pretty much anything, it is also double-layered and huge! This means it would be invaluable as a wrap during chillier summer evenings.

It is difficult to do the scarf justice in photographs…

Trying to show how big the scarf is!

Trying to show how big the scarf is!

20150605_10145520150605_102007Arriving at work in this ensemble did not completely remove all my nerves (it’s a beautiful outfit, but sadly not a magic one!), but I felt I looked good which helped immeasurably. I received some kind compliments too, which is always lovely!

The outfit is timeless and classic, and I look forward to wearing it on many work days and to many social occasions.

About to leave for work on my first day (I opted for my sensible brogues for the first day).

About to leave for work on my first day (I opted for my sensible brogues for the first day).

Disclosure: White Stuff kindly gifted me this outfit. All words and opinions are mine.

Bags of Style – and Confidence

As regular readers will be aware, I have been anxious about my impending return to work.

Being a big fan of handbags – Radley ones in particular – I was over the moon when Radley kindly offered me a bag to help with my return-to-work transition.

I was very generously sent the beautiful Millbank Large Zip Top Tote in Cerise Pink. Structured from the buttery soft leather I know and love Radley for, it is the ideal work bag: professional yet stylish, pretty yet practical, classic yet modern.

The cerise is the perfect shade of pink – bright enough to make a statement, but not so bright as to be brash.DSC_5568

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The tote is large enough to fit all these things in: iPad, notebook, purse, keys, phone, Kindle, cosmetic bag, diary, notebook, sunglasses case, umbrella, tissues, and A4 folders (they are resting on the dust bag the tote comes with).

Chiropractors fear not, I will be unlikely to carry this all at one time! All the items that could be fitted in to the bag just shows how roomy it is – yet, as you can see from the photos it is not so large as to look unwieldy.

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Inside, there are a variety of different pockets to help you find things easily (ever thought you’d lost something, such as your phone – only to find it right at the bottom of the bag?) and keep your valuables secure too.

The outside of the tote features a couple of slip pockets for things such as travel tickets it is useful to keep handy – no rummaging at the barrier!

So many pockets!

So many pockets!

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Valuables safely stashed…

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Double zips to the main compartment, and slip pockets for your A4 files – a work bag that is stylish and practical.

Radley’s trademark tag charm comes in the form of removable multi-coloured leather discs.

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The tote is perfect for feeling professional and confident for my return to work – and it is very ‘me’.

It is so beautiful I almost don’t want to use it…almost!

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Disclosure: Radley generously gifted me this bag. All words and opinions are mine.

Thank you to Martin Parker for kind use of the images in this post.

The Perfect Little Pink Dress

Every woman needs a little black dress in her wardrobe, according to old style wisdom. A dress that flatters, makes her feel good whenever she puts it on. A dress perfect for pretty much any occasion.

Well, I’ve finally found my little black dress – except it’s pink!

My perfect little pink dress is this beautiful number from Kaliko. I love colour, and the Crepe Dress caught my eye on the website. The dress did not disappoint in real life – the fuschia pink colour is stunning.

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The cut is perfect for my curvy figure, hugging the parts I like to accentuate and floating over the bits I am less confident about. The dress felt like it was made just for me.

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DSC_5674I’m 5’4”, and the hem reached my knees which is the perfect length for me.

Being blessed with a large bust, shopping for dresses can often be a trial because of having to find a neckline that is a flattering shape, but doesn’t show too much cleavage. I didn’t have to worry about that at all with this dress: the deep ‘V’ neckline with fabric underneath shows off my assets but the cut helps preserve my modesty!

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DSC_5683The fabric feels incredibly luxurious – it flows beautifully as I walked. The pleat detailing at the front floats along in a slightly dreamy fashion. I thought the sheer straps were a pretty, modern touch to this classic dress.

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The simplicity of the dress means it is appropriate for nearly any occasion. I’m going to be wearing it to BritMums Live! next month with this statement necklace from Joules, and my Clarks sandals – they are metallic silver with gold studs, which makes them a little bit special (flat shoes at that event are a must!) with a cardi over the top.

I could also see myself wearing the dress to a wedding or garden party – this purple shrug (from Jacques Vert, which I already had in my wardrobe) helps set off the dress perfectly and turns it in to a very elegant outfit.

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DSC_5633DSC_5643There are so many ways the dress could be accessorised to suit the occasion: with a statement necklace or more understated traditional jewellery; with a cardigan, shrug, or jacket; with flats or heels.

Such versatility is the beauty of this dress, and I would be as happy wearing it to a posh do as I would on a night out somewhere special with my other half, or with friends. Added to that the timeless, classic cut and colour the £129 price tag makes this dress a wise investment for any woman’s wardrobe.

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Disclosure: I was kindly gifted this dress; all words and images are my own.

Images courtesy of Martin Parker.

 

How To Look Good With Your Clothes On

It doesn’t matter if you are svelte or curvy, tall or short, or whether you shop in Primark or Prada – or anything in between – you can look as good as you want to look with your clothes on.

These are a few tips I have learnt over the years:

Know, understand, and accept your body shape

I have a curvy hourglass figure – big boobs, small waist, big hips and ‘shapely’ tum and bum. I’m 5′ 4″ tall.

Through much trial and error, I have learnt that the things that suit me best are dresses and skirts that skim my figure, and show my waist. Best avoided are trousers, and baggy clothes, which can make me look much bigger than I am.

Length wise, hemlines that sit just on the knee are best for me – midi makes me look frumpy, maxi makes me look as though I am a five year old who has raided my mum’s wardrobe, and mini – well, I just don’t have the legs for minis!

A skirt of a perfect length for me.

A skirt of a perfect length for me.

You can lose weight and gain weight, but overall you are likely to remain more or less the same body shape (and you have little chance of changing your height). Knowing what is best for my body shape means I can make a beeline for certain items, saving time as well as hassle in the changing room, making shopping a bit less stressful.

Save time and stress by making a beeline for the shops that best suit your shape

I tend to frequent the shops that make clothes that best suit my body shape. Sizes can fluctuate between stores and brands – I might be a comfortable 14 in one shop, yet can barely squeeze in to an 18 in another. I know the size on the label shouldn’t matter, but I much prefer being able to know what is going to fit and flatter me. White Stuff is a particular favourite of mine – their fun prints and feminine cuts perfectly complement my style (it’s worth adding yourself to their mailing list so you can take advantage of the regular sales).

 

Some favourite looks.

Some favourite looks.

Good old M&S and Next are my go-to places for basics like jeggings, and camisole vests (perfect for layering for warmth and/or a pop of colour, and for modesty under low cut tops and dresses).

Know the style that suits you best…but it’s always worth trying other styles

That said, I’ve tried on dresses that ‘should’ flatter me but the way they are cut makes my hips look huge. I have a couple of tunics that are particular favourites in my wardrobe that I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t given them a go – despite being mainly straight in style, the cut makes them flattering for my figure.

It’s a similar story with jeggings. I’d dismissed them thinking they’d never suit me, but they are ideal under tunics and dresses – they’ve barely left my legs all winter!

Find your own style, don’t follow fashion

This point could also be called ‘just because it’s fashionable, it doesn’t mean you have to wear it!’. If a fashion doesn’t suit your shape, you’re not going to feel good in it.

It’s far better to find your own style, something that evolves with you, and is not dictated by the season’s trends. That way, you will probably find you have a few more pennies to spend on a couple of good quality pieces that will last for years and suit many occasions – those items that the magazines talk about as being the ‘basis of your wardrobe’.

Camisole tops are handy as an extra layer - or for modesty.

Camisole tops are handy as an extra layer – or for modesty.

Discover Colour

My favourite colours are purple, pink, blue, and yellow. I love vibrant shades in preference to dark shades, and wearing brights can really help lift my mood a little.

For years, the received wisdom has been that black is the most slimming colour. I disagree. It is still possible for your all-black outfit to be unflattering if the shape doesn’t suit you – say if it’s too baggy, or too tight.

I would argue that a brightly-coloured garment, perhaps with a print that complements your style, and in a cut that is right for your body shape is infinitely more slimming than black.

It can feel easier to wear something that is unlikely to attract attention if you lack body confidence. I do understand, I’ve been there.

Don’t be frightened of colour and print.

Scarves are a good way to experiment with colour. Scarves are usually inexpensive – I love Ella Bella scarves – there are loads of different prints and colours, and you will get change from a tenner. I swear by scarves the way other women swear by red lipstick, to brighten yourself up and make it look like you’ve made an effort when you’re short on time or just can’t be bothered.

Scarves are an easy way of adding colour to an outfit.

Scarves are an easy way of adding colour to an outfit.

As is coloured nail polish.

As is coloured nail polish.

Or coloured opaque tights!

Or coloured opaque tights!

I also love coloured opaque tights, they’re a fab way of brightening up an outfit. When worn with something like a denim skirt, they can be a great way of experimenting with adding a pop of colour to your outfit.

Coloured nail polish and statement necklaces can also add colour – just give it a go!

Underwear

Well, bras in particular. While a supportive bra is vital for big busted women to help keep your boobs perky, boobs of any size look their best when they are housed in the right size bra.

I had a proper bra fitting for the first time in years a few months ago and was astonished to find I was wearing completely the wrong size. The difference the right size made was incredible – my boobs looked so much perkier, and my waist looked smaller as the result of a wonderful optical illusion.

It’s not just the right size bra that is important, but the right shape, too. Just like clothes, different shapes and different brands flatter and fit different people differently. When I had my fitting, I tried on a range of brands in the same shape, and found that Freya was best for me (they’re great for larger cups because they are supportive while being pretty – no over-the-shoulder-boulder-holders like I had to endure in my youth!).

A good bra can be painful on the purse, so it’s worth shopping around online – they’re often a bit cheaper than in the shops. Once you’ve found a site you like, consider signing up with them so you get notifications of sales so you can get some bargains.

So, here you go – do you have any tips to share?

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